Criticism

A few days ago Paul wrote about criticism. Rob brought it to my attention on Tuesday afternoon and the three of us discussed it for an hour.

While I empathized with Paul’s viewpoints, we disagreed on specifics.

  1. For starters, he didn’t want unsolicited criticism. I thought that was misguided.
  2. I pointed out that your reactions to someone’s statements are influenced by your past experiences with that person. For example, if you felt constantly belittled, chances are you’d give as good as you got whenever the opportunity presented itself. I don’t think he bought that.
  3. I also preferred dealing with problems in the open – even if it meant conflict. He didn’t want conflict.

We never came to any consensus – it wasn’t that sort of discussion – but I’d thought on and off about the entire conversation. I’d hoped to understand how I dealt with criticism; to identify a pattern in my behavior. But I can’t. In some circumstances Paul and I react similarly. In others, we’re polar opposites.

In his entry Paul talks about the “criticism people”.

People who criticize something about you, and somehow think that’s ok. People you have possible never, or rarely said anything bad about them.

I’d like to add one more sentence to that quote: “Or people you’ve never criticised due to circumstances.”

I think we all know a few criticism people. Its probable that someone thinks of you as their criticism person. I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been subject to this before. Opinions from people I didn’t think understood the circumstances I was working in. Or those who in a few words belittled me or my work. I wish I had a packaged solution for dealing with them but I don’t. I won’t lie – it hurts. I ask myself “Do they really understand what they’re talking about? Why do they feel that their opinion is valid?” I want to ask them for the basis for their comments; challenge them. But I don’t. I bite my tongue and walk away. And that’s the very antithesis of what I told Paul I’d do.

The easy thing to say would be “It doesn’t bother me. Water off a duck’s back”. But of course it does. What’s changed over the years is the duration. I don’t ignore it and I try to let it pass. Sometimes I’m successful – sometimes not. But I like to think I’m improving.

He also talked about the “roll-their-eyes” people.

The people who turn to someone else when you say something, and either laugh, or roll their eyes. I think these two things are the most socially unacceptable things you can do. And are quite possibly the most arrogant things in the world to do.

You know what – I’ve done that. It’s not something I’m proud of – and I still catch myself doing that occasionally. I don’t think I’m a particularly bad person. Or any more arrogant than those I know. But I will say one thing – I find myself doing that when I think the other person’s being particularly unreasonable. And again, I don’t want to state that upfront.

No. That doesn’t excuse my behavior.

I think its important to realize that arrogance doesn’t always manifest itself explicitly. It’s more hurtful when it’s implicit in your actions. Your tone, what you choose to talk about and how you bring up a subject – every word leaves an impression. You may not even realize you’re doing it – and even disagree violently with others’ perceptions of your actions. But it’s there – and it moulds their reactions to you.

Is this an indictment? I don’t know. I think we all do it – whether we’d like to think of ourselves as “above it all” or not. How would I react if I were told ? I’m not sure… It probably depends on who’s doing the talking.

This entry contains my recollection of events. If I’ve misrepresented any opinions, let me know and I’ll fix them immediately.

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